Well, what a month makes. In the October edition of atGeist, I shared what I thought was some hopeful news that we would be able to spare the elimination of 24 EMTs from the City of Lawrence’s Fire Department. However, at our first full council meeting in early October, Mayor Jessup informed us he was withdrawing the public safety tax levy ordinance he submitted to the council for consideration. He was no longer pursing the merger of our EMT force with Indianapolis EMS.
This last-minute change of course concerned many of us on the council. As previously shared with readers of atGeist, public safety service levels (fire & police protection) were of the utmost importance to the council, and there was great concern that removing civilian EMTs from the fire houses would potentially compromise these service levels. Mayor Jessup felt he had no choice but to eliminate these employees from our public service ranks in order to shore up a financial shortfall the city was expected to have in 2012 and in 2013. Although the 2011 council passed a balanced budget for 2012, which did include spending down most of the cash reserves, forecasted tax revenues came in less than projected and expenses continued to rise above what was budgeted. The council presented several revenue enhancements and an expense reduction option to the Mayor to avoid the elimination of 24 EMTs; however, it was not to be. It’s still too soon to see if this was the best route to take to address our weakened financial situation the city faces; but now that the decision has been made, I am confident our fire department will continue to do their job as the professionals they are all while keeping public safety as their primary mission.
On a positive note, Monarch Beverage, which has 650 employees, has 40 job openings and said the laid-off EMTs would be given preferential hiring here in Lawrence. They have reached out to the city and offered opportunities to those recently-released EMTs.
On October 24, the City Council passed the 2013 budget. In addition, the city also addressed some issues that were of concern to the Council with regards to the salary ordinances that needed to be re-aligned. They also removed some positions that were no longer needed or utilized.
Two thousand thirteen will still present its challenges, and the Council will be focused on reviewing how the administration is staying within the budget that was passed as well as continuing to work with the administration on streamlining our processes and services. By doing so, the objective will be to move the city to a culture where business and communities thrive and to leave behind doing “business as usual.” The citizens of this city are looking forward where public safety and stewardship of their tax dollars are invested wisely and yield prosperous returns.
The City Council and committee meetings are open to the public. Our full council meetings are held on the first Monday of each month in the general assembly room at the government center. Committee and board meetings are all noted and can be found on the city’s web site, www.cityoflawrence.org.Read more